Advocate concerned increased COVID-19 cases could mean isolation for N.B. seniors

Click to play video: 'Calls for better preparations in N.S. as COVID-19 cases rise'
Calls for better preparations in N.S. as COVID-19 cases rise
WATCH: After two years distanced from their families and friends, seniors are back to enjoying good company. However, as COVID-19 cases trend upwards, advocates are sounding the alarm and calling for better preparations to prevent another long period of isolation. Robert Lothian reports – Jul 13, 2022

Potential for a sixth wave of COVID-19 in New Brunswick puts seniors at risk of another long and lonely stretch in isolation, according to a seniors advocate.

Cecile Cassista is the executive director of the Coalition for Seniors and Nursing Home Residents Rights.

“No technology or phone or visiting at the window is going to replace the loved one, holding each other’s hands,” Cassista said in an interview with Global News.

Throughout the COVID-19 waves that have thumped New Brunswick, seniors, particularly those living in nursing homes, have experienced extended periods away from family and friends.

Recently released COVID-19 data indicated the province continues to have cases trend upwards, pushing Cassista to call for proper guidelines if nursing homes are forced to implement strict measures.

“There’s lessons to be learned that we need to make sure that the workers are vaccinated. We need to make sure that they’re not working in multiple locations and that all of the safety procedures are in place,” she said, adding it’s “inhumane” to deprive family members from seeing their loved ones.

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Cassista said a lack of consistency when it comes to rules and regulations at nursing homes must also be addressed.

Currently, nursing homes, which are private entities in New Brunswick, set their own policies and procedures. Cassista hopes to see uniformity between homes, similar to the COVID-19 rules set out at regional health authorities, which apply to all facilities within the respective network.

“It was really heart-wrenching to hear from a family member say there’s five of us, five sisters, and only two of us can get in. And in some homes they can get in, and in some homes they can’t get in, so that’s where, basically, the inconsistency lies.”

However, Cassista said, the current government doesn’t want “to actually set the rules for uniformity in long-term care,” and prevent any confusion.

According to the New Brunswick Association of Nursing Homes, they are again experiencing the presence of COVID-19.

“When there is increased activity in the community, that means there is increased activity in some nursing homes. I can tell you that the homes are well prepared now to deal with that. We’ve learned a lot over the last two years,” said Chief Executive Officer Julie Weir.

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Nursing homes, similar to other sectors, are seeing the virus impact staffing levels, though Weir said facilities continue to find ways to manage.

Weir stated long periods of isolation and lack of social interaction for nursing home residents has become a concern across the nation.

When I think back to the first, second and third wave, you know, the rules have loosened, especially in the area of the designated-support person and trying to engage visitation in a safe manner where everyone understands the risks and accepts the risks because certainly there are risks associated,” Weir said.

When asked about Cassista’s comments on the confusion caused by several sets of rules and a demand for consistency across nursing homes, Weir declined to comment.

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